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On Paper: On Paper Edition (Part 2)

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OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 18:  Calvin Johnson #81 of the Detroit Lions tries to break free from DeMarcus Van Dyke #23 of the Oakland Raiders at Coliseum on December 18, 2011 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 18: Calvin Johnson #81 of the Detroit Lions tries to break free from DeMarcus Van Dyke #23 of the Oakland Raiders at Coliseum on December 18, 2011 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Welcome back. In part one, "On Paper" was on a roll. Through the first half of the season, the preview had amassed a record of 7-1, with a couple of very accurate score predictions (including one direct hit). Unfortunately, things weren't so rosy for "On Paper" down the stretch.

Week 10: Lions at Bears

Not many saw what was coming in Chicago. The Lions played their worst game of the season, Matthew Stafford devolved into a pick-six machine and the Lions looked miles away from being a contender. While "On Paper" didn't exactly predict an easy win for the Lions (Detroit came out with only a +0.5 advantage), it certainly didn't foresee the travesty that was on the horizon.

Where I nailed it:

Despite Jay Cutler having an impressive performance in Detroit earlier in the season, I predicted that he'd come down to reality in their second matchup:

Though the Bears won this matchup last time the two teams faced, I expect the Lions to rebound this week. I'd be shocked if the Bears managed to keep Cutler clean again this week, and I'd be just as shocked to see the Lions defensive linemen miss their opportunities to take Cutler down again. Lions +0.5.

Culter finished 9-of-19 for only 123 yards and was sacked twice.

Where I got nailed:

Oh, what to choose from ...

... we can assume the Lions will perform somewhat near their averages, which, as you can see by this chart, is around 260 passing yards with a 99.1 passer rating.

329 yards, 46.3 passer rating.

Or how about this ugly sore of a prediction:

This is going to be a closely fought match and, likely, a low-scoring game. The stakes haven't been this high for the Lions in a decade, and I'm sure they know that. Lions 20, Bears 17.


"On Paper" record: 7-2

Week 11: Lions vs. Panthers

This was one of the tougher games to predict. The Panthers had nearly contended with every team they had played to date, yet had only managed to win two games. The statistics seemed to agree, only giving the Lions a +2 advantage. My final prediction of 27-20 did well to display how close the game was, but I clearly underestimated both offenses. The Lions pulled away late to win 49-35.

Where I nailed it:

They Panthers rank 28th in passer rating allowed, 30th in yards per attempt allowed and have only tallied 17 sacks in nine games (26th). This is a perfect opportunity for Stafford to bounce back. Lions +2.

Stafford clearly exorcised his demons of the week before, putting up 335 yards and five touchdowns.

Where I got nailed:

I don't expect the Lions to run all over them, but I do expect them to be just effective enough to make the play-action a plausible threat. Lions +1.

Dear Kevin Smith (140 yards, two touchdowns),

I'm so sorry I doubted you. I know now that you are clearly half-cat and have at least five or six lives.


Every Lions Fan

"On Paper" record: 8-2

Week 12: Lions vs. Packers

Depending on how you look at my preview, I both correctly predicted the outcome and screwed the pooch. The statistics gave the Packers a slight +0.5 advantage, but using homefield advantage and Thanksgiving as excuses, I ended up picking the Lions in a 38-35 squeaker. This is why I try to keep things as objective as possible.

Where I nailed it:

Aaron Rodgers has yet to have a passer rating below 100, and the Lions have yet to cede a 100 passer rating. Something will give in this matchup, and unfortunately, I think it will be the Lions defense that falters. I really think the Packers passing attack is one of the best in history. Packers +2.

Indeed it was the Lions defense that lost this matchup, ceding 307 yards and a 116.6 passer rating.

Where I got nailed:

I'd love to see a big day from Titus Young. His ability to run slants could be invaluable on third down against an aggressive Packers defense. If Stafford decides to spread the ball around, like he did in the second half last week, the Lions should have success. Lions +1.5.

Young: one catch, 13 yards. Stafford: three interceptions.


"On Paper" record: umm ... 8-2-1?

Week 13: Lions at Saints

A little downtrodden from the previous week, I predicted a 34-20 defeat at the hands of New Orleans despite the fact that the Saints only came out with a +0.5 advantage. Reality confirmed my suspicions, as Detroit fell 31-17.

Where I nailed it:

The Lions have a chance to hang with the Saints, but they have to be more effective in cashing in drives for points. The Lions had over 200 yards of offense in the first half against the Packers but failed to put up a single point. The Lions should have no problem moving the ball like they did last week, but if they continue to turn it over or get field goals instead of touchdowns, they will fall behind quickly.

Man, this was eerily correct. The Lions didn't have any problem moving the ball (they actually outgained the Saints 466-438), but penalties, among other problems, prevented them from turning those yards into points. It cost them the game.

Where I got nailed:

The Lions have an opportunity to win this matchup, but I think rookie running back Mark Ingram is just starting to turn things on. In the past three games, he has averaged 5.2 a carry. And, of course, don't sleep on Darren Sproles. Saints +0.5.

Minor miss here. Sproles and Ingram combined for only 82 yards. No real effect on the final outcome.

"On Paper" record: 9-2-1

Week 14: Lions vs. Vikings

Pretty much everything from this preview got thrown out the window when Christian Ponder went down. Before he got injured, the Lions were pretty much handling business, as I predicted they would (assuming Adrian Peterson would not play, which he didn't). My prediction of 31-17 Lions was almost the exact score at halftime (31-14). But then Joe Webb entered and almost shattered the Lions' dreams of reaching the postseason.

Where I nailed it:

Ponder is a more interesting case. He has shown signs of excellence, but he's still prone to a costly rookie mistake . Lions +1.

Actually, I was a bit off on this prediction. Ponder was prone to mistakes.

Where I got nailed:

Allen had three sacks in the previous matchup, but it didn't prevent Stafford from lighting up the Vikings in the second half. Allen may get to Stafford again on Sunday, but the Lions will still embarrass the Vikings secondary. Lions +3.

Early on, this looked pretty accurate. However, the Lions were sacked five times total and only managed three points in the second half. Stafford's final stat line was solid, but his second half woes almost cost the Lions the game.

"On Paper" record: 10-2-1

Week 15: Lions at Raiders

The game I will never forget. I predicted a fairly easy go for the Lions, given that Carson Palmer was struggling and the Raiders were slowly sliding out of the playoff race. What followed was one of the most horrifyingly terrific games I have ever witnessed live. How I am still living, breathing and typing this blog after braving the Black Hole, I will never fully understand. But I am utterly grateful that I am.

Where I nailed it:

Still, the Lions run defense is suspect [...] even with Suh, the Lions have struggled. Although they'll be without their star running back, the Raiders still have the advantage here: Raiders +1

The Raiders put up 132 yards on 22 carries (6.0 a carry) and almost ran the clock out because of it. Luckily, the Raiders chose to throw on some critical downs.

Where I got nailed:

I think the Lions have the advantage here. Palmer is prone to turnovers and the Lions like to force them. But Palmer also has the ability to put up a huge game. Therefore I give a tentative advantage to the Lions +1.

That's one false statement followed by a safety valve. It turns out the latter was true. Palmer put together a masterpiece to the tune of 367 yards and a 113.2 passer rating. If he makes one more completion, the Raiders come out on top.

"On Paper" record: 11-2-1

Week 16: Lions vs. Chargers

I skipped breakfast this morning because I knew I'd have a healthy dose of crow waiting for me here. For the only time this season, I predicted a Lions defeat, but one did not come. And it wasn't even close. The Lions recognized the importance of this game and came out swinging like madmen, destroying the Chargers 38-10. My prediction of a 30-27 defeat remains the biggest embarrassment in this column's history. But I couldn't have been more ecstatic to be wrong.

Where I nailed it:

I see no reason for the Lions pass offense not to have a typical performance. The Chargers do have a couple solid corners, but their lack of pass rush and Detroit's current hot streak makes me believe Stafford won't have many problems on Saturday. Lions +2.

This was a bit of a gimme, but it was pretty much the only thing I got right.

Where I got nailed:

Again, there's plenty to choose from, but I'll go with a particularly embarrassing sentence I left in the comment section:

If you think the Chargers are terrible and the Lions will roll over them, I think you’re delusional

Note to self: nothing good can come from name-calling. Send "LionsD" some chocolates and a Hallmark.

"On Paper" record: 11-3-1

Week 17: Lions at Packers

The final week of the season is always tough to predict, especially when both teams have wrapped up playoff spots. Will the team throw in the towel and rest or keep their positive momentum going? I figured the Packers would shut it down and Matt Flynn would not propose any real threat. I was wrong. Again. My 27-17 victory prediction was bested by the Packers' wild 45-41 victory.

Where I nailed it:

The running game should be a complete non-factor in the outcome of this game.

In a game where 86 points were scored, you'd expect a ton of yardage all over the place. Not in the running game. The teams combined for 154 total rushing yards. In comparison, they combined for 971 passing yards. Nailed it.

Where I got nailed:

Backup Matt Flynn is young and fairly untested, but not horrible. In his short career, he has completed 58 percent of his passes with three touchdowns and four interceptions, for a 68.1 passer rating.

That, my friends, is what we call an underestimation. 480 yards and six touchdowns later, I am thoroughly defeated.

"On Paper" record: 11-4-1.

Wild Card Round: Lions at Saints

The last time the Lions had made the playoffs, I was in my early teenage years. Yet, when the Lions made the playoffs again last year, I reverted back to my teenage giddiness. It was impossible to stay level-headed. And, again, despite the statistics leading me to a Saints victory, I couldn't help but get swept up in the excitement and pick the Lions in an upset. I set myself up for failure, and fate delivered.

Where I nailed it:

Most teams abandon the run to try and keep up with the Saints offense, and I can see that happening again this week. Therefore, this aspect of the game is unimportant. Draw.

The Lions ended up running the ball just 10 (!!) times, while they threw it 43 times.

Where I got nailed:

If the Lions can't stop a quarterback with two career starts, how will they be able to stop a future Hall-of-Famer and the most accurate passer in the game?

Please stop there. Please stop there. Please stop there.

Well, there are a couple reasons to be optimistic.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! There was no reason to be optimistic, as Brees lit the Lions up for 466 yards and three touchdowns. Game. Set. Match.

2011 "On Paper" final record: 11-4-2

Overall, I can't complain with the results. If I would have gone with the statistics alone, that record would have improved to 13-4, which is pretty phenomenal.

But I'm still not satisfied. I always want to improve. So, again, I turn to you for help. Please help with suggestions for improvement. Is there a statistic I should add to the charts? Is there an aspect of the game I'm missing? Is this all a huge waste of time? Please be honest.

Also, I was thinking about doing an "On Paper" review on a weekly basis. Is that something you would all be interested in reading, or would it be a self-indulgent waste of space? Again, I seek honesty. I don't want to put effort into something that no one enjoys.

Thanks for a wonderful 2011, and here's to doing it all over again in a couple weeks! Go Lions!

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